Is he my pastor or my husband? Spiritual Care in the Clergy Marriage

It’s complicated!

The more life I experience, the more useful this phrase becomes, especially in the realm of relationships.

Today’s topic: Spiritual Care in the Clergy Marriage

God invented the idea of husbands and He invented the idea of pastors. Surely He knew that these two things would reside together, under the same roof. Of course He did. I just wish He would have given us a little bit more instruction on how to do this particular thing well.

Can my husband also be my spiritual care giver?

Perhaps it’s something you’ve never contemplated, but you’ve probably felt the difficult dynamic. It’s a difficult time in your life, a difficult season, maybe it’s a marriage struggle, or trying to be a new mom, moving someplace new, a hospital visit, or a difficult situation with one of your adult children. Fill in the blank for some kind of challenge. Many people take these struggles to their pastor. They lean on their spouses and family for support, but they also dial the church’s number or check the communion card box and ask for a visit from the pastor.

What if your pastor is your husband? What if you wake up every morning next to that person and wonder “How did he miss that I’m hurting?” or “How can I burden him with my junk? He’s got so many people to care for.” or “He’s stressed out enough as it is, but Lord, I need someone to care for me.”

After a lot of contemplation, lots of stories from other beautiful pastor’s wives, and some time in prayer and the Word… Here is what I will present on the subject so far…

Husbands are certainly always the spiritual heads of the household. We as wives lift them up and honor them in this position. Husbands pray with us and for us naturally in this position. They lead our families and guide the family ship through the turbulent sea of life. Pastors should, in theory, be exceptional at this role. They know the Biblical picture and seek to fulfill it in their homes. Obviously sin comes in, people fail, life overwhelms. Even in the pastor’s family.

However, one problem, I think is that somewhere in trying to love us as wives and minister to us as pastors, care gets lost. Your husband is always your husband, loving you deeply, even when sin creeps in. But how can you know when he is your pastor?

Even when a pastor’s wife sits in the pew listening to the Word delivered to her heart on Sunday, does she receive it from her pastor or her husband? I for one receive the Word gladly most Sundays with a side of “I really hope other people are listening and this one goes well for him.” Or have you ever walked into your husband’s office and said, “Wow. I’m struggling. You know when our child was disrespectful. I lost it and I have no idea what to do.” Your husband can offer you grace and forgiveness, but do you hear it the same?

So there is this tiny piece missing when you become a pastor’s wife. And maybe it all works out in the wash, but I think we need to put into words this struggle. I kind of gave up having a pastor like other people experience it.

Let’s put a layer of protection around this strange relationship conundrum. What if we actively received pastoral care from other pastors or deaconesses, as church work couples? Maybe this looks like checking in with another circuit couple once a month, or utilizing the circuit visitor, dropping a bit of anxiety and being more transparent. Maybe it’s offering to be a another church work family’s source of encouragement on a regular basis.

This does not replace our husband as pastor in our lives, but I think it frees them up to love us and be to us who Christ intended them to be in their primary role- husband, lover, best friend.

Honestly, I don’t know what it should look like yet, but I know it’s worth a discussion. Tell me your thoughts. Share your story.

I wouldn’t trade my pastor/husband for the world. I love him, I love his role, I love seeing God’s big amazing plan in our strange and wonderful lives. I also love him and our marriage enough to ask difficult questions and open a conversation that doesn’t have easy answers.

Please see me for me

I am relatively new to the cell phone world. It’s not that I’m a hermit and never knew about them, it’s just that I didn’t own one for years. I semi-shared with my husband because of the cost factor of an extra phone. I stole his when I went on a trip or was “in the city” for the day. Then, I got the awesome opportunity to be his secretary (note the sarcasm), taking messages right and left. So, as a tiny bit of extra income came in, we made the jump to being a two cell phone family.

Yesterday, I realized I put people in my contacts by who they are to me, not necessarily their proper name. My sister is in there according to her childhood nickname and favorite affectionate title from my kids “Ney-Ney.” My friend Jen is “Jen, Mark’s Love.” (We love her too!) Another friend is in there as “Jaime College.” Obviously these aren’t the only dimensions I see of these people, but they are my primary goggles I evidentially identify people by without even thinking.

So, a few weeks ago when I went to put my friend Emily in, I found myself contemplating what to put her in under. Her husband is a vicar and we met through a circuit picnic, so it was really tempting to put her in as “Emily Vicar’s Wife.” But would I want someone to identify me like that? No. I wouldn’t. Somewhere deep down, while I love being the “Pastor’s Wife”, I desperately want people to see me as something else, something more, something deeper.

Being a pastor’s wife is deeply fulfilling. It’s wonderful and scary, and frustrating, and special all at the same time.

But it’s not who I am.

It’s a role I serve, a vocation even. I love being a pastor’s wife. I love being your pastor’s wife. But please see me for all of me. See me as a mom, a deaconess, a social worker, a great conversationalist, a person with a serious problem with being on time, a not so great driver, but a person with passion and exuberance.

But where is my real identity? It’s not actually in any of that. I pray that when you see me, you see Christ. Because that’s the real and true Biblical truth- I am Christ living in me. That is me.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

What do you wish people saw in you, or do you wish they saw if they looked beyond a certain title – pastor’s wife, mom, teacher?

I’m sure one thing they see is Christ. That is what we live for. This life I live, I live not just in service to Him, but as His body on earth. He lives in me and shines in me, and I am a little less me every day and a little more Him, which is a good thing.

All that said, when you go to put your pastor’s wife in your phone, put her in as Sue She Who Rocks a Cheesecake or Mary She’s Super Thoughtful, or even better Elizabeth My Friend.

And if you want, you can put my name in your phone as Heidi Crucified with Christ. I take it as a great complement.

Smelly, sweaty prayers

In our house, one of my favorite things to spot is this giant bag sitting in front of my washing machine. It’s black and red and huge! I lean down and slowly unzip the zipper and wait for the smell. What wafts up at me?

Sweaty, smelly, little boy scent.

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for that smell. I’ll wash those gross hockey sweat infested clothes for years on end, if he’ll let me. To me that scent represents so much more than just a gross boy who needs a shower. It smells like hard work, determination, commitment, and doing something with your whole heart, something he loves, and in which he finds unadulterated joy.

Now, I’m not sports obsessed. Nor am I a laundry slave to my 10-year-old. 🙂 But here’s the connection-

I think that God is a little like me opening the sweaty smelly laundry bag, when we offer our prayers up to Him. Lately God has gotten not just my prayers, but my blotchy, red face, heart’s cry prayers. He’s gotten my bottom of the pit, arms raised, seeking rescue prayers. He’s gotten my broken heart, life crashing down around me prayers. He’s gotten my frightened small voice in the middle of the night prayers.

It gives me comfort to know that, to Him, these prayers are a beautiful thing, like incense rising before Him…the sweet, sweaty smell of my precious, difficult, sojourning life on this planet. He collects my tears in an bottle. He calls my struggle “good”, when I can not. Then He turns it into something better than good.

What sweaty work have you been doing? What determined struggle do you see in your own life? From parenting wee ones and big ones, slogging through the work of grief, finding two more dollars to be able to make the utility bills, caregiving for a beloved aged member of the congregation, serving in a role that you don’t love, to loving those who seem unlovable. That’s all sweaty work.

And He loves our sweaty prayers.

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.     

Psalm 141:2

As for my sweaty, smelly, precious hockey player. He’s equally embarrassed and loves it when I pray over him before each hockey game. 🙂